Next week is Thanksgiving. I hope you are able to find some respite, especially in this particularly heavy season for many of us. And my prayer is that true Christ-centered thanksgiving is a reality in your hearts and homes.
I decided to look up every instance of the word ‘thanksgiving’ in the English Standard Version of the Bible and the word appears 34 times. I briefly read each verse. There are several contexts and themes the word ‘thanksgiving’ appears within. But there is a clear golden thread of thanksgiving which can be summed up with the phrase making much of God. Whether we are talking about a particular type of offering in the OT, or a moment of praise in the temple, or the subject matter of prayer, thanksgiving is always an expression of boasting in all that God is for us. I love that!
So, I thought I would list out a few things we can focus on as we take some time next week to consider thankfulness.
One, let’s simply and deeply be thankful to God for His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us take concerted time to know and feel the meaning and power of Christ’s work on our behalf on the cross and the fact that because of Christ there is no condemnation for us who are now identified in Him. Let’s be thankful that our worst problem, sin and separation from God, has been taken care of by Jesus. The gospel is true and it is true for us. Let us thank the Lord from the depth of our hearts that we are saved people.
Two, let’s be thankful that we are not left alone but God has given us His Comforter and Advocate and Power, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not come and go for the believer, but is resident in us. He empowers the very thankfulness our hearts so desperately need. The Spirit is conforming us to Christ, through His Word, even when we don’t realize it. I am so thankful for the presence in my life and in the church of the Spirit.
Three, let us be thankful for what we have and, conversely, not focus on what we don’t have. I find that my flesh and the devil draw my attention to loss, inability, disapproval by others, or non-achievement and this in turn often leads to self-pity. That disposition is so counter to what I should focus as a child of God. The Spirit draws our hearts to what we do have, which we do not deserve, and my prayer is that we do indeed focus on the myriad of things Christ has given us, spiritual and physical, knowing that these things are perfect for us and the things he has not given would not have been good for us. Put another way, in order to be thankful, we will need to renounce perceived merit, entitlement, and self-pity.
And four, let us be thankful for the Christian fellowship in particular. One of God’s greatest gifts is the rest of his body, the church. I hope you find deep fellowship and joy in your Christian community. It truly is the reflection of Jesus, the earthly temple, filled with the Spirit and, although imperfect and still full of sinners, it is a sacrament of love. I am very thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
For the last several years my wife has put out a mason jar and strips of coloured construction paper next to it. Over Thanksgiving week, each family member writes something they are thankful for on a strip of that paper and puts it in the jar. Then, at the Thanksgiving table, we open the jar and take out each strip of paper and read it aloud. Some of the subjects are humorous and light-hearted and others are gloriously rich and deep. Our hearts are gathered to Christ, and together toward His gospel, and we treasure the Lord together – which is indeed the state of thanksgiving.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV)